Responding to Attacks Online: Fight Fire with Fire?

9 October, 2018



What’s the correct response if someone attacks you online? The knee-jerk Woman boxing away firereaction to a damaging comment may be to post an immediate public reply; attack them in a similar vein: ‘fight fire with fire’.



This type of retaliation-in-kind may make you feel better in the short term, but in our experience it’s unlikely to bring an end to the dispute; it could even intensify future attacks on you.


So, what’s the appropriate reaction? Do nothing?



Well, doing nothing is an option, in the hope that the dispute dies down. However, the risk is that the offending comment is shared and rapidly spreads online: Twitter feeds update frequently but the internet has a long memory.



Your reputation is inherently vulnerable because it’s something that’s given to you by others; it’s not something you ever own so protecting it requires considered thought. Your job or business could be in danger of real, irreparable harm if people become aware of the offending comment and believe it to be true.



So, in answer to the original question, the appropriate response in our view is: don’t post the knee-jerk response but take a step back and objectively analyse your legal position.



Understanding your position quickly and knowing what options you have allows you to make an informed and effective tactical decision on what action to take, properly understanding the risks and costs.



The most effective and forceful response may not be what you first imagine and a considered response does not have to be a softer response; it can be more hard-hitting than any offensive reply comment you could type.



For example, it may be possible to secure a forced takedown of the original comment and pursue a claim for damages against the author of the comment. The ability to pursue such remedies in and outside of court may be prejudiced if you have posted similarly offensive comments in response to the original attack.



Comments spread fast online and therefore time is of the essence. With this in mind, we offer a Fixed Price Review Service for defamation claims, which provides advice on the merits of your case and the remedies that may be available to you.



Further reading

If you wish to know more, or to speak to us about how we could help you, you will find further guidance and our contact details on our page: Protecting your Reputation which also includes a link to our Fixed Price Review Service.